Distributors Rave Over New Technology and Lessons Learned at Workshops

The event at the George International Convention Center here attracted representatives of large and small distributors to a productivity forum that by design only addressed their issues. Speaking with ID Access, they welcomed this targeted approach to help them improve their operations.

"Being only foodservice gives a lot more focus and you don't walk by booths thinking that one or another product doesn't apply to my company. Most of the suppliers have products that apply specifically to foodservice distribution," observed Joseph R. Omann of Appert's Foodservice, St. Cloud, MN. "The seminars have also been targeted and because of that it's difficult to decide which one to attend because you'd like to attend a lot of them at the same time."

Greg Voorhees of Great Western Meats, Orlando, FL, concurred, saying, "I thought this inaugural show was very focused on foodservice, which was very rewarding for me."

Steve Sheridan, director of operations, and Don Kathman, night manager, at Queensgate Foodservice, Cincinnati, Ohio, were overwhelmed by the vast amount of new technology for warehousing and routing. They believe that a distributor-centric technology venue will help the industry.

Omann found a lot of technological advances from the 120 exhibitors and said he was pleased that suppliers have connected hardware and software.

"The technology seems to be more affordable than in years past and therefore the products and advances on productivity side have a lot more applications for small to mid-size companies than in the past, when only the big distributors could have afforded them," Omann said.

Omann said his attention was directed toward voice picking technology, which has come down in price. He discovered that vendors have worked out some of the kinks and their offerings are economical even for a small distributor.

Anthony Vasaturo of Vesuvio Foods Co., Edison, NJ, was also interested in voice technology, which because of what he saw at the expo has become a priority for the company in 2007.

"Prices have come down and it can put a lot more money to the bottom line. Our error rates are pretty low, 1.2 per 1,000, and if we can get that down even lower, which we can, then we'll save ourselves quite a bit of money to pay for the system within a year," Vasaturo said.

As for the workshops, Vasaturo said the one about motivating workers offered him many insights that he plans on introducing to his staff.

A trio of IT and ops staffers from Cash-Wa Distributing Co., Kearney, NE, John J. White, Jared Sheldon and Scott Willson, also found the workshops informative as they hurried to the show floor to learn about new hardware and software offerings.

Michael McCarthy, IFDA director of education and research, the point person in bringing together the workshops, along with Tony Canty of Labatt Food Service, San Antonio, was extremely pleased with the quality of the outcome and the large number of people that attended each session. He said planning committee members brought their company-colleagues to speak at some of the sessions.

"That brings a lot of value. People come here to learn things that they can take home and use in their businesses, to learn from their peers, and we were able to deliver that to them by having distributors on the program," McCarthy said.

Among the technological trends that he found interesting were in the area of the perfect order and electronic proof of delivery as well as voice recognition that is considered a boon to improving productivity and reducing errors.

For principals, like David Ginsberg, president of Ginsberg's, Hudson, NY, the conference and expo gave him the opportunity to network with his colleague-executives and share best practices tips and solutions.

"As a member of IFDA, I felt that it is up to the principals to support everything that IFDA does especially at a productivity conference, where we can learn something from each other. We're all looking for something to enhance our bottom lines and everyone here has a solution of some kind to make that happen," Ginsberg said.

The conference and expo ends tomorrow. At its conclusion, IFDA will hold its first Fuel Summit from 1-3:30 PM at the Atlanta Airport Hilton Hotel.

The conference and expo are co-sponsored by UniPro Foodservice, Frosty Acres Brands, Inc., Golbon, Progressive Group Alliance, Independent Marketing Alliance, Federated Foodservice, and the American Wholesale Marketers Association.


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